Monday, February 28, 2011

Nova Reads Proust vol.1 sleeping and name dropping

Now, begins Despair Banishing Project #1.

For the longest time, when I lay down at night I think of instances in books and movies when the characters sleep and I pretend to be them. I'm Katniss strapped to a tree, Kevin McCallister in an opera house storage room, I'm held hostage in South America sleeping on a grand living room floor. Whatever happens to my Proust project, at least I have a new sleep story to add to my collection.

In the beginning, a young boy (proust?) tells us about going to sleep. Its goodness when it is easy, and the scary way it can allude you. Winter bedrooms, summer bedrooms. Falling asleep in the late afternoon light before your very late dinner. About how your mother comes to you or doesn't come to you and the way you hold back your plea for love. Because that can make the whole thing go away, can't it? In the first 25 pages, with lots of words and very few periods, we hear a lot about saying goodnight.

(We also meet M.Swann and there is a lot of French name dropping that was a little lost on me.)

But despite this and the very unsure ground I stand on regarding what this book is about, I've buried my rundown brain into its pages and have been thankful for getting lost in all the beautiful words.


  1. I'm so glad you're reading this. It's one of my favorite books. But, yes, things happen glacially. I remember when I started reading volume 2 a couple years ago, I charted the plot thus: little Marcel pines to see his favorite actress of the stage for the first time, Mme Berma. Then a diplomat friend of Marcel's father makes fun of Berma and Marcel is deeply hurt. His spirits are lifted when he learns he will get to SEE Berma perform with his grandmother, but then he starts to get sick and might not be able to go. But then he does and sees her perform, but he's so wrapped up in watching her for the first time he cannot concentrate on actually experiencing/enjoying it. I basically described like 200 pages.

    Swann’s Way is not really about anything. It’s just basically the reminiscences of a guy named Marcel (a stand in for Proust, but not actually Proust). You have to be cool with tangents because Proust goes through so many generations of tangents that you’ll forget about what he’s talking about in the first place. The protag is dropping names, not because you’ll know them, but because that’s what upper middle class French people of the nineteenth century did. As you read, some of them will become more recognizable.

    This is my favorite book because it captures the nuanced movements of human emotion better than any other book I’ve read. It also perfectly captures the social interests and mores of a lost era. It’s good…BUT LONG!

  2. I like this comment, Dan. It's very Proust.